The Balconies Step Out of the Spotlight

Photo credit: Indoor Recess

The Balconies have been one of Ottawa's premier live bands since they hit the scene a decade ago. In a career that spanned radio hits, winning the Live 88.5 Big Money Shot, and their two LPs Fast Motions and Rhonda, the band was always out to surprise and impress. Contending with the time and money required to stay afloat in the industry however, the Balconies announced this December that they were ending the band, and moving to the production side through The Balconies Collective.

We caught up with The Balconies' frontwoman Jacquie Neville ahead of their Last Lunge shows at the 27 Club on February 2 & 3 to talk about why they're ending this phase of their careers, what the Balconies Collective means for their future and what their fondest memories are from ten years of music.

Ottawa Life: Your last album came out around two years ago, so why did you suddenly realize it was time to move on now?

Jacquie Neville: Where Liam and I wound up when we were getting ready to release the Rhonda record, we had thought "Do we change the band's name because we've gone in such a different direction than our previous records?" and we had even considered putting under a separate project name. We decided against it because we wanted to stick it out and stay true to our name, fans or momentum from the previous records. We kept at it because we loved this project and were really dedicated to it, and there's a lot of people who've invested a lot of themselves into the band. We're grateful for that but the industry isn't what it used to be, so it's much harder for mid-level bands to sustain themselves. We decided to figure out if we wanted to be a touring band that's out on the road nine to ten months a year, and we realized that no, we didn't want that anymore. We love performing and seeing all the people at our shows. You're livelihood is really dependent too on being on the road for that much time in a year.

On the way to Rhonda we had been working with a lot of different artists, doing production and we realized that's where a lot of our passion had shifted towards. We felt really good about this because we have these years of experience of touring, making records and working with the industry, and it's opened some really exciting doors to try new things. I'm also working on a solo project right now that I'm super excited about, and Liam's really involved with that too.

Had you been writing since you put out Rhonda in 2016 and what's going to happen to that material?

We were definitely working on other material.Money got tight, and things just didn't fix the way we wanted with other songs for Rhonda so we scrapped material.  For me with any future projects, they will all have an underlying message and theme. What I realized when we released Rhonda was that she was part of me, but also part of a lot of people.  The album is about facing adversity and believing about yourself, and that theme will continue in everything we do. It might not necessarily be part of the Rhonda world though.

Why hadn't you released these two albums you decided to put out around the announcement?

When we had finished our first Balconies album, the one with the stars on the cover that was never released, we were proud of it. We had just started working with a new management team at the time, and they just advised us to play a lot of shows and not highlight that record, they saw it as more of a low-budget EP. We had recorded vocals in my apartment, so it was a lo-fi recording to be fair. We ended up gaining momentum, and getting some grants, so we were able to continue recording and record our album Show You, with Jon Drew who produced the Kill Count EP. Show You was supposed to be our second LP, but we had just started working with a label, and they felt having two singers was confusing and it lacked direction. That second album was never released to the public at all, so we wanted to show people where we came from.

What can fans expect from your final shows, lots of confetti?

Probably no confetti, because venues hate you when you use confetti so I will refrain from that. We definitely want to showcase the band's entire career, which will encase really old songs and new songs. It's been fun revisiting old songs that I haven't played in six years, it's also very terrifying. It's very cathartic returning to those songs and seeing how far we came in 10 years, I'm so proud of all the things we did as a group. We went so many amazing places and met amazing people. Knowing you made people feel something is the most important thing, so we want to share that with them.

What memories stick out most to you over your 10 year run?

The things that always stood out to me were the people who came after the shows to talk to me. We'd be in Winnipeg and these two guys talked to us and said "We're your biggest fans" and I thought it was awesome, but most people say that. I said "What's your name, where are you from?" and they said Arkansas, they had driven 15 hours to see us play. That happened a lot, we would play in Vancouver and people from Winnipeg and California would be coming to our shows.

One girl sent us a message on Instagram saying she was 16 and couldn't come to the show because she was underage. I invited her to our rehearsal at Mod Club in Toronto, and we had all our horns there for a four-hour rehearsal. She sat there the entire time, and she was in tears the whole time. She said that our music saved her and made her feel great, I'm getting emotional juts talking about.

What exactly is The Balconies Collective?

It's all really open right now. Right now we're in an experimental stage because I moved back to Ottawa in the spring, and Liam's still in Toronto. It's been cool because it has forced to stay more in touch than ever, and we have these awesome Facetime meetings where we jam over the phone. We feel like we've created a community of people, so if someone needs a singer or guitar player, everyone is helping each other out. We want to continue that collaborative effort. There will be more shows and music videos in the future, just not under the umbrella of the Balconies as a band.